Old Times in Windham
by Rev. Henry Hedges Prout
Originally published in the Windham Journal from February 18, 1869 to March 31, 1870. Article 10 published on April 22, 1869. Extracted from the microfilm copies of the Windham Journal located at the Vedder Research Library.
Retyped by Arlene Goodwin
When people have pet truths, and these are disproportionately magnified, the holders of them become one-sided. There are very few theories of human nature as broad as human nature itself. The structure of man is too marvelously composite for ordinary theorists. Not in each single faculty only but in the balance of all his faculties is man fearfully and wonderfully made. The balance is practically too delicate, and too subtle in every case to be realized and analyzed by us. It is that however on which will doubtless be predicated the just awards at last.
Ephraim and Robert Turney were the sons of John Turney who emigrated from Newton, Connecticut, in 1790, when Robert was 14 yeas old. The father bought 365 acres of land below where Trinity Church now stands. His residence was near Mr. Mead’s, where his son Ephraim lived for many years, while Robert after his marriage dwelt in the house now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Martin. No one could have lived there in 1790 without a due share of hardships and considerable romantic adventure. A bridle path led across the mountain by way of the Heights to Buel’s mill, and Robert was mill boy, and his grist was long in grinding. Starting homeward at last, the shadows began to thicken as he got to the Heights, and the deep bay of the wolves was heard near his path. So he got down, tied his horse to a tree, kindled a fire, and replenishing his fire from time to time, kept off his antagonists till morning when, as is the habit of such cruel brutes, they hid themselves.
Ephraim Turney was Justice of the Peace for many years, transacted much public business, and was a man of sincere, thorough honesty. His life was one of blameless innocence. In religious matters his brother Robert was forward and marked yet with a modesty and sincerity all his own. The Sunday evening Conference meetings, and institution much patronized in old times by young men and women, from mixed motive, at least from motives which it was hardly uncharitable to say were not always perfectly religious, and the monthly concert for prayer, were occasions which drew out Robert Turney and illustrated his devout punctuality. He maintained a very complete congruity between his life and religious calling, and hence even triflers respected him. His whole character was gentle. The jewel consistency shone in his conduct and his life was therefore beautiful. Should it be asked, what did he to make himself respected and loved? It would have to be answered—not much; others gave more largely, and were more active. But he did what some others did not, made his life uniform. His light shone steadily. Probably no one could say that Robert Turney had injured him.
In may be that the rule of religious practice then popular did not involve much self-denial in relieving the poor, did not bear a heavy cross in doing works of benevolence and charity, and the rule of Robert Turney’s life was undoubtedly the common one. It may not have been therefore so positively self-denying, did not shine with moral brilliance as has been the case of many of the devout followers of Him who went about doing good. But it was an innocent guileless life, kind, earnest, transparent and gentle. It was consistent with itself and with its understood rule. And consistency appeals powerfully to the mind, the love of it seems almost innate. Conscience is certainly innate in us, and if the example appeal to both these faculties at once it wields great power.
Robert Turney’s temperament was happily blended. It would seem that he was religious from childhood, and that the first public act of devotion on his part grew out of no sudden impulse but had its root in views and principles wrought into his very earliest life. There were no ups and downs in his course; like so many of the good fathers of the country, he was always earnest and calm. Planting assumed steady growth is the principle of life, the law which brings everything toward perfection.
Laban Andrews moved from Wallingford, Connecticut, to what is now Jewett about 1785 or 1786. Two of his sons, Ichabod and Constant A., signed the joint Act of Association for the support of the Episcopal Church in this region, drawn up in 1799. But the male members of the family must have either died or left this part of the country not many years afterward. The oldest daughter was the wife of Araunah Hubbard, and two of her children and several grandchildren and great grandchildren are living. Susan Andrews became the wife of Isaac Buell and after a prolonged life both sleep in the Old Burying Ground, and their descendants are amongst us. Reuben Hosford, in his day one of the marked features of the social landscape, married Olive Andrews and some of their descents remain. Henry Hosford was long one of the prominent citizens of the towns of Lexington, and others of his sons were well known as men of integrity.
Loring Andrews, a successful merchant and wealthy citizen of New York, was the son of Constant A. Andrews, and began his career, an orphan boy, in the tanning leather in the employ of Foster Morss of Windham. He was known as a young man of steady industry and thorough honesty, one who could always be depended upon, and whose appearance was remarkably and uniformly reserved and quiet. It may be instructive to the young men of the day to know that Loring Andrews laid the foundation of his successful career as a wealthy merchant in hard work day by day during his youth and early manhood.
Equally, or even more remarkably is the rule, "he that is faithful in little is faithful in much." illustrated in another case:-
In the neighborhood where the Andrews family had settled, Zadoc Pratt, senior, took up his abode in 1802, and was employed in tanning on a small scale. As early as 1636 the Pratt family had settled at Hartford, Connecticut, and must consequently have seen the planting of the colony. From that place this branch had migrated to Stephentown, Rensselaer county, and thence to Windham, now Jewett. Their neighbors, the Andrews, it would appear had been churchmen in Connecticut; the Pratts were probably Puritans, as were a majority of the emigrants in early times, Zadoc Pratt, senior, was very certainly a member of the Congregational Society of Windham, and a man of soul-no half-and-half man. To whatever he did, he gave himself frankly and unreservedly. His children are living and among them Zadoc most widely known and highly honored. The history of the life of his son, Zadoc Pratt, is one of peculiar and absorbing interest, developing practical talent of high order in business and legislation, and a boldness of originality joined with sound common sense rarely seen. In glancing over the memoranda of his life, one is struck with the romantic variety of vicissitudes which they present, the thorough humanity running through his experiences, and his consequent relish of life, and a prevalent tone of generosity. The individuality is striking and complete.
Nationality is an immense power in determining both character and conduct. The elaborate political treaties of John C. Calhoun on the Constitution, with its powerful and acute logic did not and could not convince the people that the state is sovereign. The nation is sovereign and therefore a nation indeed is a sentiment in wrought into the instinctive covetousness of the people! And here, the writer hopes to be pardoned the remark is the secret of the folly of the late session. Its work was a fight against National Consciousness. Compared to this the State instinct is feeble and narrow. All through the land, southward and northward, men, women, and children had heard and read and felt the national appeal for the space of ninety or a hundred years, and they knew that they had a country and that country had a grandeur and glory of its own. The result showed not merely that nation was sovereign, but that the people instinctively felt that it was so.
Now a grand national life reproduces itself in individuals, and educates them, stimulating enthusiasm, and then absorbing that enthusiasm till they are not merely proud of country but fondly venerate it. The appeal which a great nation ever makes to the imagination and heart is addressed to the noblest of early impulses, forming and moulding character and firing and evaluation continually. It is an influence, constant and genial, pressing the life from childhood upward.
America therefore has a progeny wholly her own, and proud of their paternity; a race select and chosen; marked by elastic courage and princely aspiration; distinguished by sagacity, resolution and strength; by tender regard for honest poverty, by worship of country and insight that reverently reads the handwriting on the soul of the humblest. An undivided country rears such men; they are her children to whom she is dear and they dear to her; copies of her originality, born on her soil, and nurtured in her bosom; a race of genial spirits that grow as the young national life grows, and beams with spontaneous patriotism, and like Abraham, lays its very choicest upon the altar undoubtingly; and then weeps only tears of joy for the bright hope of what is coming. Thus is national life reproducing itself in individual life. Only a nation that is instinctively a nation, a country that is one and having a grand integrity as the basis of its grand freedom can nourish such men.
The contemporaries of Col. Zadoc Pratt have honored him with high honor. In the memoranda of his life it is mentioned, and it is a fact that speaks volumes, that in his multifarious transactions, he never had a law suit in court. This implies a generous tolerant humanity of feeling, a blending of sympathy with quick sagacity with is wise and safe, which trusts and is trusted, which loves and is beloved, which forms the esthetic basis of a wide reputation, and is the temperament out of which flows a characteristic enthusiasm. But these papers are especially devoted to recollections of the past, and we may not with discretion canonize the living. An ancient maxim tells us to deem no man happy till he is dead. The opportunity is closed and character sealed.